Australia’s mining sector contributes around 13.7% of the country’s GDP and makes up more than two-thirds of Australia’s total merchandise exports. The sector directly employs over a quarter of a million people. This year, the sector has done extremely well despite a sharp slowdown in world economic growth during 2022.
The Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Commonwealth of Australia Resources and Energy’s Quarterly for December 2022 has just been released and showcases this strong performance. The Resources and Energy Quarterly (REQ) contains the Office of the Chief Economist’s forecasts for the value, volume, and price of Australia’s major resources and energy commodity exports. Australia’s resource and energy export earnings are forecast to reach $459 billion in 2022–2023, following high global energy prices and a lower Australian dollar. Export earnings are, however, forecast to fall to $391 billion in 2023–2024 as prices for energy commodities fall amidst easing supply disruptions and a weaker global economy.
The transition to electric mobility and cleaner sources of energy is expected to supercharge Australia’s mining sector. Australia is already one of the key players for some of the critical elements for making lithium batteries and other key components of the energy transition. Who said there was no demand for electric vehicles? Due to rising demand for batteries for electric vehicles, there has been a boom in the global lithium demand, and Australia is primed to keep benefiting from it. Due to this strong demand, the Commonwealth of Australia Resources and Energy Department of Industry, Science and Resources (“the Department”) says lithium export earnings are expected to exceed $16 billion in 2022–23, up from $5 billion in 2021–2022. This will make lithium Australia’s sixth-largest resource and energy commodity export. The Department also says that the expected annual average growth of over 18% a year will see production rise from 335,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) in 2021–2022 to 399,000 tonnes in 2022–2023 and 470,000 tonnes in 2023–2024.
Nickel also has a key role in the transition. Remember when Elon said we need more nickel? Well, Australia is trying as best as it can to help. The Department says Australia’s export volumes are estimated to rise from 157,000 tonnes in 2021–2022 to 188,000 tonnes in 2023–2024, supported by the need for Australian nickel for the transition to low-emissions technologies. What was that about no demand for EVs again? The report also cites that sales of EVs are estimated to hit 11 million units in 2022 — an increase of 64% on the 6.7 million EVs sold last year. Therefore, nickel use in batteries is expected to grow by 42% in 2022. You can also follow developments on the EV sales front right here on CleanTechnica.
Copper is another important one for the energy transition. Australia is the 6th largest producer of mined copper in the world and the country is ranked second in terms of copper resources. In 2021–2022, copper exports stood at $12 billion. Copper exports are expected to grow to 895,000 tonnes by 2023–2024 as production from new mines and mine expansions comes online. Increased production and export volumes are expected to spur an increase in export earnings to nearly $13 billion in 2023–2024. With EVs containing 5 times more copper than ICE cars, Australia is primed to continue playing a key role in the transition to electric mobility.
Images and data from Commonwealth of Australia Resources and Energy Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Resources and energy quarterly (REQ) for December 2022.
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